By Tasha Kane
By Daniel Zamora
Was the line above the headline of a newspaper or tabloid of any city in the twenty-first century?
No, that is the topic summary of Psalm 17 written around 1,000 BC. It seems that things have not changed much in these many years. People lie to each other, commit violence, display hatred in many and hidden ways and plot a variety of crimes.
Western civilization, through its laws, medicine and psychology, has observed, studied, tested and proposed solutions for all the mentioned behaviors ranging from punishing them with death penalty or life imprisonment to modifying them through counseling and therapy. While all of these are great and wonderful tools to help people, there are new situations that lead individuals to cause and inflict pain into others. In today’s terms, we could add to that list confusion, stress, discrimination, and bullying, among many other situations.
Yes, the resource of all resources is only a prayer away, our God.
“Hear, O LORD, my righteous plea; listen to my cry, Give ear to my prayer” (v. 1)
“May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right” (v. 2)
Let’s make this Lent season a time to ask the Lord help through our prayers.
By Bridgette Langford
What does it mean to have Joy?
Christ shares with us that in order for us to truly seek Joyfulness, our love must be genuine, we must hate evil, and should be devoted to loving one another above ourselves. We must have great energy and keep our spiritual passion for serving him. We must be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.
As I read this passage I began to think what does it mean to be joyful in hope, be patient in affliction and what does it truly mean to be faithful in prayer?
We have a desire for certain things to happen, but sometimes that waiting is hard. We all go through experiences in our lives. Some are good other are bad. No matter what life hands us we are to persist in our praying. This can be hard, depending on what is currently going on in your life. We must remain joyful as we wait upon the lord.
I must confess that the waiting part is hard. I often wonder how the prophets felt before Jesus came to earth. They shared with the world he was coming. They remained joyful in hope, even when they received affliction by those who did not believe. They remained faithful in prayer as they waited. This is a good example to us. We must do things with joy, passion, love, hope, and patience while remaining faithful in prayer.
I ask you to take a moment and think about the last time you were truly joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. When was the last time you let your joy shine in loving others? As we are in this period of advent and drawing closer to celebrating the birth of our Savior, I find great Joy in knowing my hope is found in Him and I hope yours is too. I want to encourage you if you have not already done so today to smile and be the light of Joy to all those you see.
Father, thank you so much for being our Joyful hope, help me to remain faithful in prayer in times of joy and sorrow. Allow me to be your servant, not just during this me but always. Thank for using me for your glory. God grant me peace in knowing I am doing your will for my life. Amen.
By Lori Tyler
Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16
David was a man after God’s own heart. David was called by God. He worshiped Him with all his being. His Psalms praise God as King of Creation, Lord of All, and Light of the World. David knew his place. God was God, and he was not. But I think David was a man after God’s own heart, not just because of his faithful praise, but also because of his neediness for God’s refuge and help in his life.
In Psalm 31 he is running from Saul who is pursuing him. David is crying out for deliverance from his enemy. He is a man in distress and trouble. We are familiar with the many Psalms that praise God for who He is — mighty, majestic, a faithful Savior. But do we remember the Psalms that are open, honest, and raw before God?
It is good to know that we can pray a selfish prayer every once a while. A prayer to protect us from harm, watch over our children or help us in a difficult situation at work. We can run to Him for refuge and safety. He is, after all, Our Deliver, Our Refuge, and Our Savior. I want to praise Him for his holiness and majesty. But I’m sure glad He’s also there to hear about my worries and needs.
A healthy spiritual life, I think, means that we can be a little selfish every once in a while. David shows it’s OK to be afraid, to be anxious, to need God to step in when we feel out of control. Isn’t that what Easter is all about? Your salvation and mine was out of our control. We can’t save ourselves. Sin was the enemy, the winner. We needed a little, OK a lot, of help. Thankfully, what David knew and what Easter reminds us about is that God offers a love so great that His life was sacrificed for mine. Wow, what a beautiful reminder of the lopsided relationship we have with God! A selfless love for a selfish life.
By Christie Goodman
One of the seven traditional Psalms for the Lenten season is Psalm 51. It comes with an editor’s note explaining that David wrote it after Nathan had come to confront him about his adultery with Bathsheba. When we go back and look at 2 Samuel, we see that Nathan’s indictment comes right after the birth of David and Bathsheba’s son. So by this point, David has already ordered the death-by-war murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, to cover up his own indiscretion.
It makes sense then to hear Psalm 51 as a plea for forgiveness. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.”
But there’s more. The baby is gravely ill after birth. David pleads with God for his child’s life. He can’t eat. He can’t sleep. He is inconsolable.
If this is part of the reason behind David’s song in Psalm 51, it brings a deeper understanding of verse 7, “Cleanse me with hyssop…” The Jews used Hyssop leaves to paint blood over their doors in remembrance of the Passover. “Lord, pleeeease spare my child.”
I can relate: 14 years ago today, I woke up in a hospital bed with the news that I was no longer pregnant. Nine weeks early, my tiny baby of just over 3 pounds was on life support in a hospital across town. Her body was attached to countless wires and tubes. When I finally got to see her five days later, we turned her over with our fingertips.
Like many mothers of preemies, I grieved and struggled with feelings of guilt. What could I have done differently? Should I have rested more? Should I have taken more vitamins?
Unlike David, I did not have to worry that murderous or adulterous behavior had led to my baby’s struggle for life. I did not have – as David did – someone like Nathan telling me God was displeased and that my child would soon die. Instead, I had doctors reporting that nothing I had done caused this premature birth. But I still wondered.
My baby survived, but David’s didn’t. Perhaps Bathsheba’s grief over the death of her husband affected her unborn child. Who knows? There are tons of natural, physiological reasons babies die today, let alone thousands of years ago. But the reason behind the baby’s death isn’t the point here.
During that week of the baby’s illness, David prayed. He could have tried to hide from God out of shame, feeling unworthy of God’s attention. But no, he knelt before God with humility, knowing he did not deserve God’s compassion but asking anyway.
It would be nice to be able to say David learned from his mistakes, that he was reformed and perfect from that point forward. But he wasn’t. And yet, he is revered.
Perfection is not what God is looking for. He wants us to turn to him. He wants faithfulness. He wants us to love one another.
On this day, March 19, my first-born turns 14. She is happy and healthy. She has been nurtured and prayed for since before her birth by this congregation. And we live in gratitude.
None of us can really know what life was like in David’s time or how God may or may not have intervened, but we do know this: David prayed and God listened. We pray, God listens.
By Lance Mayes
One of the first things that pops in my mind when I read Psalm 84 is a book I read in college, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence was a seventeenth century French monk who served at a monastery in the kitchen.
“… we should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s presence by continually conversing with [God].”
“And it was observed that in the greatest hurry of business in the kitchen he still preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness.”
“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I posses God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”
Brother Lawrence saw his job as a chance to worship God. He remembered that he was constantly in God’s presence whether in the kitchen or on his knees in prayer.
The Psalmist encourages us to remember how joyful it is to be in God’s presence and that God will provide God’s strength and times of refreshing when we especially need it.
How can we practice being in God’s presence? How can we continually be conversing with God? How do we experience God’s presence whether we are in corporate worship on Sunday morning or the daily grind of our jobs? How can we remember to talk with God in the midst of our trials, our sorrows and our joys?
Hang on to these truths today. Rest in God’s presence and receive God’s joy, strength and refreshing. Let’s all practice God’s presence together.
By Barbara Higdon
Recently, my Sunday School class committed to pray at a specific time of day for a member who has suffered a long-term, debilitating medical condition with no apparent relief for years.
On prayer day, I, too, had a medical problem and called my doctor’s office. I was put on hold and had to wait through minute after minute of horrible music interrupted by recordings telling me how valuable I am and how much they want to help me. Yeah, right.
My appointed prayer time came and the phone continued to tell me how hard they were working to take care of me. I found myself wanting to throw the phone at the wall!
Instead, while still on hold, I began to pray for my friend, remembering how much longer her medical need has caused her suffering and how frayed her and her family’s patience must be. Despite the annoying announcements, my prayer time took a surprising turn. As I kept asking God to give her healing, I was able to thank Him for the lessons in patience I still need and receive daily.
“However much we may know God, the great lesson to learn is that at any minute He may break in. We are apt to overlook this element of surprise, but God never works in any other way.” Oswald Chambers